Irish anarchist interviewed about the 1970s and 80s (part 1)

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Belfast Anarchist banner at a Peoples Democracy march (1969?)

Belfast Anarchist banner at a Peoples Democracy march (1969?)

As a teenager Alan MacSimoin joined the Official Republican Movement but soon moved towards anarchism, later being a founder member of the Workers Solidarity Movement.

In this interview filmed in October 2014 he talks about republican debates about militarism and mass politics, the Northern Ireland civil rights movement, the Peoples Democracy march from Belfast to Dublin, the successful anti-nuclear campaign of the late 1970s and the Dunnes Stores anti-apartheid strike of the mid-1980s.

The man beside Alan on the picket at Dunnes Stores in Dublin's Henry Street is fellow WSM member Eddie Conlon,  later Honorary Secretary of the Teachers Union of Ireland.

The man beside Alan is fellow WSM member Eddie Conlon, later Honorary Secretary of the Teachers Union of Ireland.

The interview was conducted by the Irish Republican and Marxist History Project, and is at


Anarchy magazine, special issue on Ireland (1971)

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Anarchy magazine, edited by Colin Ward, was published from London in the 1960s. A second series, with no direct connection to Ward’s, appeared in the 1970s. Issue no. 6, from 1971, was largely given over to articles written by members of People’s Democracy.

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It kicks off with an introduction looking at the reforms won by the civil rights movement, and the response of the left in Britain to internment.

Next is a detailed account of the police mutiny during the 1907 Belfast dock strike. The author, John Grey, went on to expand this into a book; City in Revolt (Blackstaff Press, 1987). The revolt was sparked by the refusal of Constable William Barrett to escort a wagon driven by a scab, and soon saw the majority of RIC men in the city put forward their own demands for pay and pension increases. The spirit of Larkinism was seen in statements like that condemning their officers for doing “all in their power to humiliate the Belfast police in the eyes of the public by turning them into “blacklegs” – to please their friends the capitalists”.

A biographical article about James Connolly emphasises his syndicalism, but the unknown author gets carried away by his own enthusiasm when he quotes the socialist poet Robert Lynd as proof that Connolly was not only a syndicalist but specifically an anarcho-syndicalist.

The history of People’s Democracy by J. Quinn takes us through the early PD’s development from a student civil rights group to a revolutionary socialist organisation. It gives us a real sense of how the most dynamic left group in the six counties at the time saw things at the beginning of the ’70s.

‘Major Mullen’ (the late John McGuffin) describes his arrest and time in Crumlin Road jail.

The 22 week strike by workers at Cement Limited in Drogheda and Limerick in 1970 saw PD helping the strikers by picketing scab deliveries coming into small non-union ports like Cushendun, Kilkeel and Ardglass. The Orange state responded with over 100 summonses, numerous arrests and several jail sentences. PD were also accused of responsibility when in Armagh “within the course of two weeks no fewer than 21 lorries owned by scabs mysteriously combusted” and in Newry when “over 200 people came out of their houses and stoned the boat (loaded with scab cement) out of the harbour”.

Finally, there are book reviews looking at the Blueshirts, Church & State in modern Ireland, and anarchism in urban life.